Blogging the thin blue line

The number of blogs emerging from countries around the world with oppressive, government controlled press restrictions has only served to bring the blog and the blogger into the eyes of the mainstream. Brave bloggers have gone against the controllers and blogged about the real situation 'from the ground', giving us what we assume to be a much truer picture of life in these locations, often putting themselves at risk by doing so.

What happens when the impact of blogging does not pose a direct risk to the blogger's safety but does impact on their financial security and consequently that of their family? The BBC reports today on new guidelines issued by the Metropolitan Police relating to their workforce's blogging activity (a spokesperson for the Met stressed that it has not banned blogging) which have raised angry reactions in the blogging community.

The guidelines highlight 'a series of web-logs or blogs where authors - claiming to be police officers - have offered their views on a number of issues in a highly personalised, often controversial manner'. The conditions listed include a ban on 'expressing views and opinions that are damaging to the organisation or bring the organisation into disrepute'.

Steven Silvers' post on the 'you are what you post' effect raises some interesting issues. The Met's guidelines ban the expression of certain views and opinions by its staff or those 'claiming to be police officers'. Presumably that ban doesn't extend to bloggers who are unaffiliated with the police (and make no claim to be representing the police). But should we be careful what we post in case at some point in the future we/or a member of our family were to want to join the force?

Freedom of speech is an invaluable right and those bloggers who post their versions of events in defiance of those who seek to control the media are incredibly brave. When it comes to a choice between protecting and providing for your family or blogging the truth, I think the majority would sympathise with blogger World Weary Detective:

"I cannot challenge New Scotland Yard. I am weary indeed and cowardice is my bed-mate. The protection of my family must take precedence…It is therefore with deep regret and great sadness that I must announce that I will no longer be submitting posts to this blog."

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Anonymous Serge said...

Interesting and serious questions here, Sam. Unfortunately there are probably no B&W answers, as usual in life. I can understand that the police force is weary about officers (or, worse, people prentending to be officers) go making announcements that might compromise ongoing investigations for example. On the other hand; when blogging policemen (and they should have the right to do so) only deal with things that might affect the public image of the force at most, then the freedom of speech is probably a greater value? And yes, I too would tend to sympathise with World Weary Detective...

7:02 am  
Blogger Pub said...

You're right about the lack of a clear cut answer Serge. I think my post was more of an outpouring over what was going round in my head. I was working through a combination of anger at the Met's attempt to censor the output of their employees outside the working environment, not to protect the public interest but to protect the reputation of the organisation; the dilemma of blogging the truth vs protecting your (and your family's) safety/livelihood and wondering whether, like Andrea's and Steven's posts highlight, what we post/publish on the web now could have implications years down the line. I think the Guru needs more samosas to fuel his pondering on this one ;-)

10:41 am  
Anonymous Serge said...

When you reach your state of Enlightenment: please let us know! :-)

8:37 pm  

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